I recently built a new home audio system and decided it would be fun to experiment with vinyl given how trendy it has become. I should have known right from the get-go that I would I would wind up going a little too far, in typical audiophile fashion.
I had purchased an Orbit turn-table from U-Turn Audio was quickly having all too much fun. I equipped mine with the acryllic platter and Ortofon 2M Red cartridge. I opted not to get their Pluto pre-amp as my Parasound amp includes a phono stage. This was great for getting started but left something to be desired, as with many built-in phono stages.
After some research, I came upon the Muffsy Hi-Fi Phono Pre-Amp and Power Supply kits. I’m pretty handy with a soldering iron and so this looked like a lot of fun. I purchased the phono pre-amp and power supply and it was shipped in no-time. I already had some OPA2134 op-amps on hand (the upgrade option) so that was helpful.
Assembling the kit took about 4.5 hours all-inclusive to assemble and test. It was is straight-forward and the instructions are top-notch. I appreciated how well labeled the parts were. I had no trouble assembling the kit.
For reference, my system includes B&W 705 S2 speakers and a Parasound Halo Integrated Amp. I’m using Pangea Audio Premier SE interconnects and Kimber Kable 12VS speaker cables. I began by using 47k Ω input load and 40 dB gain in my tests.
I selected 5 albums for my comparison:
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips
Reasonable Doubt by Jay Z
God Shuffled His Feet by Crash Test Dummies
Deltron 3030 by Deltron 3030
Moon Safari by Air
Yoshimi was up first and I was immediately struck by the difference when compared to my built-in phono stage. Everything became more detailed, vocals becoming clearer and I found myself noticing more of the little sound effects throughout the album. There was a much greater sense of ‘texture’ to the music as well.
This carried through with Jay Z and I was pleasantly surprised with the improvements in bass. It was not overt, just tighter and a little punchier without being in-your-face.
I was similarly impressed while enjoying Crash Test Dummies. I particularly enjoyed the way “The Psychic” came across. I can only describe it as soulful.
Moon Safari sounded silky smooth and was quite captivating. This is one of the records where this pre-amp shined the most. Deltron 3030 was also very enjoyable, becoming a more immersive experience. I felt as if I was being drawn into the dystopian future Del describes.
After a lot of tweaking and listening, I’ve eventually settled on 33k Ω impedance with 46dB gain. This seemed to strike the perfect balance with my gear, and even my wife agreed 😜
Later, I decided to modify the kit, replacing the internal wiring with cable from Nerve Audio (Vagus and Axon) and swapping the OPA2134 op-amps for OPA2132s. This only amplified (ha ha!) the wondrousness of this device. The OPA2132s produce a more full-bodied sound with deeper bass and a greater sense of tone. I highly recommend this modification. OPA2132s sell for $6-7. See Digikey. The improved shielding on the Nerve Audio cable and silver plating was much appreciated.
My record player does not have an external ground and this caused me to get some audible hum with my Muffsy. I had to take some extra steps to ground everything to the B0905 enclosure but it wasn’t painful or difficult. The kit’s maker has this fully documented. It completely eliminated hum at any sane (and then some) volume.
This all having been said, let me try to answer a few questions for anyone who might be considering this kit.
Is it worth the cost? Yes! I think so. There is was no small difference in playback quality for me. You won’t be asking yourself whether you really hear a difference. Compared with my built-in I can only characterize the change as both stark and wonderful. It is a real treat.
Is it difficult to assemble? It is not hard, but it is involved. I recommend having good soldering tools, lots of space and light before undertaking this kit. Don’t try to use a $25 soldering iron — this won’t go well.
If you are new to soldering, practice first! Get some cheap kits from Velleman or similar on Amazon and hone your skills there. If you need a good iron, order a Hakko FX-888D — you’re welcome! 😜
This product won’t be for everyone necessarily, but I had fun building it and I’d do it over again without hesitation (in fact, I may for a 2nd setup). While I do not have a huge frame of reference for this sort of thing, I think it would be extremely difficult to match the performance of the Muffsy even at the ~$500 price point from Whoever Audio.
Lastly, I want to point out how awesome the seller is. My kit came without 2 capacitors but Skrodahl fixed me up in no time. He really stands behind his product and has been great about answering questions. You could not ask for better.